Verizon Wireless has updated its plans for the release of its first LTE phones, as Chief Executive Ivan Seidenberg revealed to The Wall Street Journal, expecting to premiere the handsets at January’s CES and have the first models up for sale by February of next year. Anticipated models include HTC’s Incredible HD and a yet-unnamed handset from LG.
The LTE network itself should be operational by the end of 2010, with 38 cities receiving coverage. The introduction of all this new data capacity apparently has Verizon rethinking how it markets data to customers, and may spell the end of unlimited plans. Though LTE should have no problems handling the initial influx of users, Verizon is looking a few years down the road, when it expects that a third of its users will be downloading at least a gigabyte a month.
One option would be to cap the “unlimited” plan at something like 5GB and charge for overages, instead of the speed downgrade that happens now when a user crosses the 5GB point. In fact, a Verizon website recently substituted its unlimited data plan with a 5GB option; the company claims that the listing was in error, but it certainly seems to have shown its hand.
Another strategy, outlined by CFO Fran Shammo, would offer trade-offs between speed and data limits. “If you want to pay for less speed, you’ll pay for less speed and consume more, or you can pay for high speed and consume less,” said Shammo. For now, there’s no final word on what to expect from LTE smartphone plans in 2011.